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Open Access Highly Accessed Debate

Acute treatment of migraine. Breaking the paradigm of monotherapy

Abouch Valenty Krymchantowski

Author Affiliations

Department of Neurology, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Headache Outpatient Service, Instituto de Neurologia Deolindo Couto, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Headache Center of Rio, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

BMC Neurology 2004, 4:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-4-4

Published: 28 January 2004



Migraine is a highly prevalent disorder. The disability provoked by its attacks results in suffering as well as considerable economic and social losses. The objective of migraine acute treatment is to restore the patient to normal function as quickly and consistently as possible. There are numerous drugs available for this purpose and despite recent advances in the understanding of the mechanisms and different biological systems involved in migraine attacks, with the development of specific 5-HT agonists known as triptans, current options for acute migraine still stand below the ideal.


Monotherapeutic approaches are the rule but up to one third of all patients discontinue their medications due to lack of efficacy, headache recurrence, cost and/or side effects. In addition, a rationale has been suggested for the development of polytherapeutic approaches, simultaneously aiming at some of the biological systems involved. This paper reviews the fundamentals for this changing approach as well as the evidence of its better efficacy.


As a conclusion, most of the patients with a past history of not responding (no pain-free at 2 hours and/or no sustained pain-free at 24 hours) in at least 5 previous attacks should undergo a combination therapy suiting to their individual profile, which must include analgesics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents plus a triptan or a gastro kinetic drug. The three-drug regimen may also be considered. In addition, changing the right moment to take it and the choice for formulations other than oral has also to be determined individually and clearly posted to the patient.

migraine; acute treatment; polytherapy; changing approach